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Old 06-07-2012, 08:37 PM   #1
BecBennett
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I don't know a word of Japanese! - A COMPLETED TR!

In just over a month, DH and I will be heading over to Japan for a 2 week holiday. Very exciting!

We had some bad news earlier this year, so we decided to take the advantage and head off on a holiday. We tossed around a few ideas, skiing in New Zealand came up, as did another trip back to the US.

Our trip to the US was going to be flying into LAX, driving from LAX up to San Fran along the coast, cruising from San Fran up to Alaska and back, flying from SFO to JFK to spend 2 weeks with DH’s family and then back to LAX for a few Disney days before heading home. We started planning this trip and figured that we’d need probably four weeks for it.

Which is where the problems started.

DH runs his own business, so taking time off isn’t the issue, but taking extended time off can cause a lot of problems. So we did a bit of research into how long his current job was expected to last, and how soon he would have to start his next job. What we could do with his apprentice while we were away, and a lot of other stupid things you don’t think about until you own your own business and try and have a holiday…

We could do 2 weeks. So back to the idea of New Zealand, except I don’t like the cold. And hey what a coincidence! There are some cheap flights to Japan how about we look at that!?!

We tossed up flying Jetstar because their prices really can’t be beat, or Qantas because they offer a lot more for the price you pay. However it was looking like it was going to cost $2000 more to fly Qantas then to fly Jetstar, but with Jetstar we’d have to make connecting flights in Australia, and that seemed annoying, but $2000 is a lot of money.

We ummed and ahhed over it for a couple of days but figured we’d end up booking with Jetstar because we’re not crazy. Then I received an email about internation flights on sale, so of course I looked into it. The flights for the days I was looking at were a little cheaper, but still not comparable with Jetstar, and then I played around with the dates and found that if we flew out the following Saturday then the price difference was only $400! Done, I told DH and he said “Book it! I hate flying Jetstar”

So with that long story out of the way, we’re now flying from Sydney to Narita direct on Saturday July 14th and returning from Narita to Sydney July 29th.
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Old 06-07-2012, 08:59 PM   #2
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YAY!! Very exciting!! Can't wait to read more of your trip!!

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Old 06-07-2012, 09:07 PM   #3
BecBennett
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I don't usually do PTR's, I usually wait until I've gotten back and just do a TR, but I think this area of the boards needs a bit more movement, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to start one.

Hope you enjoy reading along
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:10 PM   #4
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Currently I don’t know a word of Japanese, and while I am a believer in the whole “If you’re coming to our country learn to speak our language” thing, part of me wants to not learn any Japanese, so I can pass on to others what it’s like trying to get around without knowing any. The other part of me wants to study it, but I know I’m not going to pick up any between now and when we leave.

We’re currently booked in at the Century Southern Tower Hotel in Shinjuku from the 15th (when our plane arrives) to the 24th, and then from the 24th to the 29th we’re at the Hotel Granvia in Kyoto.

Century Southern Tower Hotel

compliments of their website

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

compliments of the hotels.com website

So far our time line looks like this:

15th – Arrive and check into our hotel, we’ll be arriving early and wont be able to check in until 2pm, but we’re planning on dumping our luggage and trying to work out our bearings a bit – particularly with the Shinjuku train station. Since we’ll be using this station the most it wouldn’t hurt to work out where everything is. I’ve been told that its not uncommon to reduce lost tourists to tears because they can’t find their way out of it!

16th – This is a public holiday, so we might head with the masses into the Imperial Palace, otherwise just general site seeing.

17th – Disneyland!!!

18th – Disney Sea

19th – either Disneyland or Disney Sea or both.

20th – either Disneyland or Disney Sea or both.
We haven’t bought our tickets for Disney yet, as I’ve heard that guests staying onsite can sometimes purchase 4 day tickets that are hoppers from day one. So we’re going to wait a bit and see if any good Disney Hotel prices just magically turn up, and maybe change a few things around then.

21st – More Tokyo site seeing. Maybe head to Nikko for the day.

22nd – This is the last day of the Sumo tournament in Nagoya. So we might head to Nagoya for the day, or alternatively we might take the free option and just visit a few Sumo Stables to see some training etc.

23rd – More site seeing.

24th – Check out of the Century Southern Tower and hop on the Nozomi shinkansen to Kyoto. Check into Hotel Granvia.

25th – Spend the day in Osaka – there’s a festival on today with lots of fire works and stuff and I really want to see it.

26th – Kyoto site seeing.

27th – Kyoto site seeing.

28th – Kyoto site seeing.

29th – Check out of Hotel Granvia and head back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen. Our flight home isn’t until 8:30pm, but we’ll probably just make this a travel day so we don’t feel rushed to do anything.

The things we would like to do include Ueno park, the New Otani hotel garden, a visit to Nikko, maybe get a bit closer to Mt. Fuji – no need to climb it, but I’d like to see it, and being the middle of summer it can get pretty hazy, so I think a trip to it is in order. Lots of shrines and temples, Harajuku, and probably a lot more.

I’ll look into any and all recommendations!
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:11 PM   #5
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Looking forward to following along! If I can't get back to TDR right this minute, the next best thing is living vicariously through others!
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Old 06-07-2012, 11:08 PM   #6
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You know I am following along - I am impatiently waiting for airfare deals for April 2013.

That is the same sort of itinerary I am looking at. Will you get JR passes or just the one return tix. I dont think you can use the fastest shink to Kyoto on the normal JR pass.

You are right, this subforum needs more action!
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Old 06-08-2012, 05:02 AM   #7
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Very exciting Bec - Japan is a fantastic holiday!

I'd recommend an overnighter to Nikko - there is a lot to do and it takes 3 - 4 hours to get there.

Do your research on Japan cause it is FANTASTIC!

BTW: the shinkasen for the JR pass is still as good as the other - the time difference was like 20 mins. Hyperdia is great - you can plan your routes, get the costs and do your price comparison to see if you are better off getting the JR Pass.

About.com and Tripadvisor have very good advice and active japan boards
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Old 06-08-2012, 05:09 AM   #8
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Konichiwa.


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Old 06-08-2012, 04:21 PM   #9
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Awesome itinerary so far! Can't wait to read the rest!!
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Old 06-08-2012, 06:17 PM   #10
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DH and I didn't know a word of Japanese on our first trip either, so your not the only one. We only had 3 weeks to plan our first trip and have made another 3 after that. I wrote the following a couple of days ago on another post so you may enjoy reading as well. What caught my eye in your itinerary is 3 days in Kyoto, I would plan 2 and stop at Minato Mirai on your way back toward Tokyo and spend overnight there just for a different part of the culture. They are both great areas and very different. I would not want to miss either one. We really saw everything we wanted in Kyoto in 1 1/2 days. The second thing that caught my eye was taking the train to Shinjuku station, it is horrifying after a long trip. I've been there but never with luggage or tired, it's unbelievably busy. People are like orderly marching ants and we clearly didn't fit in and it is confusing especially if you don't know the language. My son was with us and spoke fluent Japanese but still it is like a maze in that area.
Have fun planning and here is a copy of my post...

I went to Japan for a month at at time 4 times since 2009. We want to go back again, it is so different. We have taken many modes of transportation from Narita. I think the easiest is Airport Limousine. When you come up from baggage claim you will see the sign, you can pay for your tickets 30 yen for one way to your destination. You may want to pick a destination that is on their list because we have taken a taxi from the nearest drop off point to our destination and found it very hard because of the language difference. You didn't say if anyone in your group speaks Japanese? So my tip #1 is to make sure your hotel is serviced by the airport limo route it will make your life a lot easier after a very long trip! On the way back to the airport the hotel can arrange your tickets back to the airport as well.
Capital One Credit Card is a much better card to use in Japan because there is no foreign transaction fee. American Express charges a fee of 3% I believe. I have used both cards they are both accepted. I also used my TDBank debit card at 7 eleven to get out cash (yen). Up to $500 a transaction because you need yen to do a lot of the local things in Tokyo. It's pretty much a cash only, unless you are in fancier restaurants or hotels. Forget about Travelers cheques, they are a pain and not recognized unless you want to spend 1/2 day in the Japanese bank trying to get them cashed (I'm not kidding).
If you want to have some fun go to Japanese Karaoke it's so different than the American version, everyone has their own rooms and it could be a lot of fun with a bunch of girls at any age!
Iidabashi is a great train stop to get off and wonder around Kagurazaka Street. Lots of shops and restaurants and it's where all the locals go day and night. On the side streets there are many temples. I wondered around there one morning and before I knew it it was 1 in the morning, so much fun interacting with the locals. They really are very welcoming.

Another one of my favorite things to do is go to Minato Mirai in Yokohama. It is about a 30-40 minute train ride from Tokyo. In MM there is the Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan. It is full of shops and restaurants and it is where the locals go from all over Japan. A short walk from here to The Red Brick Warehouse is a touristy area that locals go to often, lots of shops, restaurants and fun things to do. Another short walk ChinaTown. It is the largest Chinatown we have ever seen and so much fun. From there another short walk to Motomachi shopping street. Great restaurants and shopping. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel while touring this area but you could easily take in all this in one day if you get there early enough. This area is all surrounded by the Pier beautiful walk with a really nice zen garden to walk through as well as other gardens. If you don't feel like walking from place to place you can take a Rickshaw. We did, it's something that we always wanted to do and we couldn't believe we actually rode from the Red Brick Warehouse to Motomachi in a Rickshaw!

This is a very sophisticated part of Japan, I think the loveliest and we have been all over the place. Intercontinental Hotel in Minato Mirai is called the Intercontinental Grand, it's certainly grand and very reasonably priced from what we are used to paying in foreign countries.
I have so much more to tell you about Japan, but I'll leave you with that for now. Have a great time! DH and I can't wait to go back, our son is getting married there this fall! He is already married here in the States, and is now planning a traditional Japanese wedding.
Last edited by Lynn CC; Yesterday at 12:15 AM.
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:56 AM   #11
BecBennett
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessInOz View Post
Konichiwa.
Well now you've ruined everything!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BelleBway View Post
Looking forward to following along! If I can't get back to TDR right this minute, the next best thing is living vicariously through others!
Tell me about it! I can't wait for the carsland TR's to start!

Quote:
Originally Posted by battymum View Post
You know I am following along - I am impatiently waiting for airfare deals for April 2013.

That is the same sort of itinerary I am looking at. Will you get JR passes or just the one return tix. I dont think you can use the fastest shink to Kyoto on the normal JR pass.

You are right, this subforum needs more action!
I think we'll get the return passes, as well as suica for tokyo, and the kyoto equivalent for when we're there - I can't remember that it's called at the moment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sugarglider View Post
Very exciting Bec - Japan is a fantastic holiday!

I'd recommend an overnighter to Nikko - there is a lot to do and it takes 3 - 4 hours to get there.

Do your research on Japan cause it is FANTASTIC!

BTW: the shinkasen for the JR pass is still as good as the other - the time difference was like 20 mins. Hyperdia is great - you can plan your routes, get the costs and do your price comparison to see if you are better off getting the JR Pass.

About.com and Tripadvisor have very good advice and active japan boards
Really? I didn't think Nikko was so far away!

I think we want the Nozomi, it's silly, but we figure if we're going to go on the super fast bullet train, we should take the fast one...

I've got hyperdia on my phone and I've played around with working out how to get from here to there. I'm going to either buy a sim card with data on it, or rent a pocket wifi so I can use the net on my phone while we're over there. I have a feeling we'll need google maps just to find the train station, let alone working out what train to catch when we get there

Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilinaDM101 View Post
Awesome itinerary so far! Can't wait to read the rest!!
Thanks for following along. I can't wait for the rest to happen so I can write about it!

Lynn - Thank you so much for all that helpful info! I'm sure I'll read back through it a few times. A rickshaw! What a great idea!

I've thought about the limo bus before, and it definitely does feel like it would be a lot less stress. I think I heard that you can get a good discount using the suicaNEX pass, but on holidays I'd pay for less stress


I've already bought travel insurance, and I've started transferring money onto our travel card. I think we're planning on just stumbling on different restaurants for meals, so I don't need to make any reservations.

I don't like the fact that I can't buy my train tickets until we get there, because I feel like I need to be booking/planning more, but what else is there to plan?
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:57 AM   #12
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Just saving this post for things/places I'd like to see. I'll list them below so they're all on the front page. I'm hoping that writing them here will help me remember what it is I wanted to see. Plus I'll take my laptop with me, so if need be I can always open my TR while over there and check on the names of places

Hakone - to see Mt Fuji
Fuji-Q Highland (I think also in Hakone)
New Otani Hotel Garden
Ueno Park
Imperial Palace
Osaka
Nikko - hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil
Sumo wrestling - either Nagoya or a stable
Gion
Harajuku
Takesh*ta St
Akihabara
Osaka's Tenjin festival
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Old 06-09-2012, 07:54 AM   #13
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Since you're planning to travel to Kyoto, are you purchasing a JR Pass? These are special passes for the JR Railways only for foreign tourists (must have a non-Japanese passport with a tourist visa, ie 90 day visa), but allows unlimited use of JR lines, including the shinkansen (except Nozomi.) A 7-day pass is worth it for the Tokyo-Kyoto shinkansen round trip alone, but it may save you some money since it looks like you'll be doing a lot of day trips. I wouldn't recommend the 14-day pass for your trip since you'll be in Disney, but if you arrange the start day to line up with your shinkansen days, it will be worth it. (Plus you can use it on the Narita express to get back to the airport as well.)

I will say that Nikko is wonderful (but I may think that only because I study Japanese history.) It is a long trip, anyway from 2 1/2 to 4 hours from Tokyo depending on what trains you take, but I think it makes a great day trip. The scenery on the train ride is gorgeous, and there are tables and food on some trains. (My buddy and I played a lot of card games on our trip up.) Be sure to check out the See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil monkey carving. There are plenty of souvenirs with the monkeys on them at shops in town.

If you can't make time for getting close to Mt. Fuji, just ask for window seats facing Fuji when you take the shinkansen to Kyoto or back again. It's an impressive sight.

I'll second Lynn on visiting Yokohama. I lived there for seven months in 2010/2011 while I attended a language school in Minato-Mirai. It's very different from Tokyo, and the harbor area is gorgeous. Chinatown's food is astounding, and it's a nice walk from Minato-mirai, through Sakuragicho, and along the harbor to Chinatown. Also, in Shin-Yokohama is the Ramen Museum, which is pretty cool.

My mom is coming to Japan in a couple weeks and doesn't speak a word of Japanese, so I'll let you know her experience of getting around not knowing any of the language. (Granted, I'll be translating for her during the trip, but I have no concept of what it's like not to know Japanese here.) Thankfully, signage is usually in English and a lot of restaurants have English menus, or at least picture menus, so you should get by fine. :D
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Old 06-09-2012, 09:07 AM   #14
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*sigh* Don't they know how much easier they'd make it if tourists only had to buy one pass, and it got you on all train lines/subway lines all over Japan??

suica, pasmo, jr, nex, subway, light rail, shinkansen, monorail... It's all getting a bit confusing. I showed DH the train line map though, and he seemed to understand it, so I might put him in charge of that...
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Old 06-09-2012, 09:48 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BecBennett View Post
suica, pasmo, jr, nex, subway, light rail, shinkansen, monorail... It's all getting a bit confusing. I showed DH the train line map though, and he seemed to understand it, so I might put him in charge of that...
Haha, yes it's a bit much to take in. I'll try to explain best I can...

Lines
There are various companies that run through Japan. These are the most common.
JR: Largest train company. Own the shinkansens, as well as the most traveled lines in Tokyo. Can use JR Pass on them.
Tokyo Metro Line: Ie the subway system. A little more complicated, but you can transfer between all their lines without buying separate tickets.
Odakyuu: Smaller line, but can get you to a few harder to reach places.
Tokyuu: In Tokyo, your only experience with them will probably be getting to Yokohama, as they have the most direct route.

Passes
Suica/Pasmo:
These are rechargeable cards you can use. Costs 500 yen for your first card as a deposit, but you can get the money back if you return it. The best thing is THIS IS ACCEPTED ON ALL LINES. So if you load 2000 yen on a card and need to switch between JR and Tokyo Metro, you just swipe it at the entrance. No need to figure out separate tickets. (*Note*: The Narita Express/Suica card deal at Narita is really good for this. Will give you a ride from Narita into Tokyo and then your Suica card that you can recharge for the rest of your trip.)
JR Pass: Available in 7 days or 14 days version. Good on all JR Lines (no other lines) and Shinkansen (minus Nozomi). You just wave this to the ticket agent at each station, and you're through. (*Note*: You must order this BEFORE you arrive in Japan. Your passport will be checked when you first exchange it to activate, but otherwise you're good to go.)

If you have any specific questions about the trains, let me know. :D I live in Tokyo right now and switch between several lines most every day in my travels around the area.
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